No matter the holiday, there are always traditions for which every family in every community will make time. Some have only recently been introduced to add a fresh spark to the season, while others are classics that go back so long that it feels as if there can’t be a holiday without them. Traditions nurture the bonds that we’ve made over time, give a sense of purpose, and serve as a testament to what we find important.
A family friend grew up with a beautiful holiday tradition: every year, people in the neighborhood would pitch in for the cost of luminarias. Regardless of what holiday each family celebrated, the paper lanterns decorating every front yard were a symbol of hope and togetherness. When she left that area as an adult, she eagerly introduced the tradition to her new community. Neighbors who never interacted before she arrived have become close friends thanks to the group effort of creating a stunning display.
Other neighborhood celebrations are just as exhilarating. Jumping into the family van or onto the back of a hayride to look at the Winterhaven Festival of Lights in Tucson has been a tradition in my community for the past seventy years. The Winterhaven families always embellish their houses in their classiest decorations and welcome people from anywhere in town to drive through and admire. Entrance is free, but the neighborhood never fails to encourage onlookers to bring nonperishables for the Community Food Bank. In this way we’re reminded that traditions aren’t solely for our own enjoyment. Taking part in rituals that bring our attention closer to home is just as important.
For thirteen years, my family has practiced a tradition called the Twelve Days of Christmas. We seek out a widow or widower in our sphere of influence who is experiencing their first holiday season without their spouse and find twelve small, thoughtful gifts that may put a smile on their face. Over the course of twelve days, we sneak them onto the receiver’s doorstep, never revealing our identities.
Practices like these create memories that last a lifetime. They’re something to delight in during the holiday season and to look forward to in the next. They give us a sense of belonging, provide comfort, teach values, connect generations and create stability in the whirlwind that holidays often become. They remind us where we come from and form a bridge that can take us where we want to go, something that all of us should reflect on and rejoice in.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault